Walgreens to cease Medicaid reimbursements at 64 Washington state pharmacies
DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens plans to withdraw 64 of its stores from Washington state’s Medicaid program in response to a continued reduction in reimbursements, reducing its total Medicaid business in the state by 75%, the retail pharmacy chain announced Thursday.
The most recent payment reduction results from a court ruling last fall in Massachusetts that reduced the industry pricing standard despite pharmacies’ acquisition costs having not changed. Many private health insurers have adjusted pharmacy reimbursement rates to limit the effects of the court ruling, but Washington’s Medicaid program has not, resulting in reimbursements that don’t meet the levels needed for the company to break even.
“Walgreens is committed to providing cost-effective pharmacy services across the state,” Walgreens SVP pharmacy Kermit Crawford said in a statement. “We have thousands of loyal patients who appreciate and trust our pharmacists, and we are absolutely committed to patient care. That’s why we have worked, and are committed tow working, diligently with the state on ways to lower its spending on prescription drugs while ensuring patients have access to the full benefit of their drug therapy.”
The retail pharmacy chain said that if pharmacies are forced out of the Medicaid program due to payment reductions, other healthcare costs are likely to increase.
“Now is the time, with the legislature back in session, to fix the state’s pharmacy reimbursement rates,” Crawford said. “We look forward to working with elected officials over the course of the next several weeks to address this important issue.”
Walgreens isn’t the only drug store chain involved cutting Medicaid reimbursements in Washington state. Last week, regional pharmacy chain Bartell Drugs announced that it will stop filling Medicaid prescriptions at 15 of its 57 stores, citing recent reductions in compensation from the state to pharmacies filling DSHS/Medicaid prescriptions. The move is effective Feb. 1, 2010. Of those stores that will stop filling Medicaid prescriptions, 12 are located in King County and three are in Snohomish County.
Study: Some African-American diabetics at risk of developing retinal disease
NEW YORK African-American diabetics who consume large amounts of calories and sodium risk developing more severe retinal disease than those who don’t, according to a study published in the January issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.
Researchers at the New York University College of Dentistry and the New Jersey Medical School at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey examined 469 African-American patients with Type 1 diabetes who enrolled in the study between 1993 and 1998, administering eye exams, blood tests and a diet questionnaire after a six-year follow-up.
Those with the highest caloric intake at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop retinopathy leading to vision loss by the end of the six-year period, while those with high sodium intake had the highest risk of developing macular edema.
“In African American patients with Type 1 diabetes, high caloric and sodium intakes are significant and independent risk factors for progression to severe forms of diabetic retinopathy,” the authors wrote. “These results suggest that low caloric and sodium intakes in African American individuals with Type 1 diabetes mellitus may have a beneficial effect on the progression of diabetic retinopathy and thus might be part of dietary recommendations for this population.”
Google.org to expand Google Flu Trends tracking
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. Google.org on Tuesday announced on its blog site that it is expanding its Google Flu Trends tracking capabilities from the macro to the micro.
“We’ve been chatting with public health officials about new ways we can help people understand the spread of flu during this unusual time and today we’re excited to bring city level flu estimates to 121 cities in the United States,” the company wrote in its blog.
The city level estimates are “experimental,” the company cautioned, meaning they haven’t been validated against official data. However, the estimates are made in a similar manner to its U.S. national estimates, which have been validated.
In contrast to the unusually early spike of flu activity this October, Google Flu Trends is currently showing a low level of activity in the United States.
Google Flu Trends helps estimate flu trends in real time by tracking the popularity of certain Google search queries.